Nov 12, 2012 6:59 PM by Lacey Steele

Soldier went MIA in 1967, son shares the story of the return of his remains on September 11, 2001

On days like Veterans Day, the country comes together to remember those who gave their all for our nation and our freedom, but for people who have loved ones missing in action, the main thing they want is peace.

We now bring you the unique story of one soldier's journey home to his final resting place.

Back in 1961, Robert Apodaca's father was more than just your typical graduate.

"He was the first Native American to graduate from the Air Force Academy," said Robert. "Navajo indian, and the third class to graduate."

His story post-graduation was also not typical.

"I was only three years old when he was shot down on June 8, 1967," said Robert. "He was flying out of North Vietnam in F-4's."

So what happened to Major Victor Apodaca Jr.?

For decades they tried to find answers, but always got the same response.

"'I'm sorry it didn't pan out. That just turned out to be a missionary who looked like your dad,' or something like that," said Robert.

Robert went to the academy as well.

That's where he learned about his dad.

"There's this guy, gray hair and everything, looking at me, and he goes, 'Was your dad's name Vic?'" said Robert. "I was like, 'Yes, sir.' He goes, 'I was his Colonel when he was shot down in Vietnam."

His family heard countless stories about his father's love for life and flight, but he still wasn't home.

Finally a day Robert would remember forever when His father's remains were found and headed home.

It would also be a day no one in the U.S. would ever forget.

"We get into the United States air space, Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, and the terrorists attack," said Robert.

Robert was stuck in Minneapolis with his father's remains until the military stepped in with a C-130.

"The aircraft commander looks back at me and says, 'I don't know if you realize this, but you're the only passenger in the United States air space at this time,'" said Robert.

Back home in Colorado, Honor Guards met him and fighter jets flew alongside to escort his dad home.

For him, his family's story is like part of the Airman's Creed.

"'I will never leave an airman behind. I will never falter, I will not fail,'" recited Robert. "For some people those are just words, but for my family, we lived it."

It was peace, decades in the making.

Robert now does motivational speaking, bringing to light the brotherhood and kindness of the military.

He also speaks to help other families who are still waiting for answers about their loved ones who are still missing in action.



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